Glunier of Rawdon and the fall of King Harold

The Domesday Book tells us that, before the Norman Conquest, Rawdon was in the possession of three Anglo Saxon nobles (or ‘thegns’). They were Sandi, Gamel and Glunier. Nothing more is known of Sandi – his name appears nowhere else in the Domesday Book or any other contemporary source that I have seen. Gamel owned (with Glunier) the manor of Yeadon and several other places but nothing else is known of his life. Glunier, on the other hand, played a significant part in a chain of events which would ultimately lead to William the Conqueror’s victory at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. This is his story.

Glunier, son of Hardwulf, was the lord of several manors, including Rawdon and Yeadon, before the Norman Conquest. He was also, we are told, one of the leaders of a rebellion against Tostig, Earl of Northumbria, in the autumn of 1065. Tostig was unpopular because of punitive taxation and heavy-handed rule, including the murder of two thegns who were staying with him as guests.

On 3 October 1065, Glunier and his co-conspirators took advantage of Tostig’s absence in Wiltshire hunting with his brother, Earl Harold (the future king), by seizing control of his stronghold of York. There, they killed approximately 200 of Tostig’s henchmen before declaring Morcar of Mercia the new Earl in Tostig’s place.

The rebels then marched south to petition King Edward the Confessor to uphold their grievances against Tostig. Edward despatched Harold to meet them at Northampton. Having heard out the rebels, Harold returned to the King and persuaded him to outlaw Tostig.

It is not known whether Harold conspired in his brother’s betrayal but Tostig certainly thought so and publicly accused him of treachery. Tostig went into exile, vowing revenge. He tried, apparently without success, to form an alliance with William, Duke of Normandy (as he then was), before making a doomed invasion of England which was repelled by Morcar and his brother, Edwin.

Tostig’s next move was to sail to Norway and form an alliance with King Harald Hardrada. Together, they invaded northern England via the Humber and gained revenge on Morcar and Edwin at the Battle of Fulford on 20 September 1066. York was now back in Tostig’s control.

By this time, Edward the Confessor was dead and Harold was King of England. In response to the news of events at Fulford, Harold rushed north with a large army, covering 185 miles in a mere four days – astonishingly quick in those days. Harold caught his brother unawares at Stamford Bridge, near York, on 25 September 1066 and defeated him in battle but not before 5,000 of his men had been killed.

Just three days later, William of Normandy arrived on the south coast of England with an invasion army of 10,000 men. Harold was forced to dash back south with his now depleted and exhausted army to meet the invaders just outside Hastings. The rest, as they say, is history.

One can only speculate whether the outcome of the Battle of Hastings would have been different if Harold had taken the field with a full and unwearied force. It is, however, reasonable to assume that the English were severely weakened by Stamford Bridge which in turn had been caused by Harold siding with Glunier’s rebels against his own brother.

So, we might therefore conclude that Glunier, Thegn of Rawdon, may indirectly have paved the way for the Norman Conquest of 1066!

In the next of my Norman-themed posts, I look at the evidence for the local legend that William the Conqueror came to Horsforth.

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The Battle of Fulford

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